In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Estonian World brings you the latest reactions from Estonia – one of the few NATO member states that is bordering with Russia. For updates from April, March and February, please see a separate article.
3 August 2022 – Estonia has provided Ukraine with €245 million worth of defence assistance
The Estonian government and people have provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid worth nearly €20 million in total, and defence assistance worth almost €245 million – the equivalent of the third of Estonia’s annual defence budget.
3 August – Almost 49,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled to Estonia
More than 48,000 Ukrainians – nearly 3.7% of Estonia’s population – have fled to Estonia from the war. Out of those, over 31,000 have applied for the temporary residency, the rest have been on transit.
3 August 2022 – Estonia’s foreign minister meets Zelensky in Kyiv
Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu was in Kyiv today to meet with Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, prime minister Denys Shmyhal and speaker of the country’s parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk.
According to Reinsalu, reconstruction of Ukraine must start immediately. “We must stop making promises and get to work,” the foreign minister said in a statement. Reinsalu added that the price of the aggression must be made as severe as possible for Russia. “We will continue making proposals for more severe and efficient sanctions. We must also jointly prevent Russia from evading sanctions,” he said.
In order to reinforce sanctions, the European Union adopted the seventh sanctions package in late July, which included an import ban on gold, the second main export of Russia after energy carriers.
28 July 2022 – Russian citizens can no longer get visas for studying in Estonia
The Estonian government approved a sanction that limits Russian citizens from applying for temporary residence permits or visas for the purpose of studying in Estonia. In addition, the sanction, established by the regulation, specifies that citizens of Russia and Belarus can register short-term employment only if they have a valid visa issued by Estonia.
22 July 2022 – Volunteers in Estonia raise more than €100,000 for Ukrainian drones
An “Adopt A Drone” scheme to buy drones for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, organised by volunteers in Estonia, has raised more than €100,000 from donors in Estonia and around the world.
22 July 2022 – 30,000 Ukrainian refugees staying in Estonia
Since the start of the Russian unprovoked war against Ukraine, almost 47,000 Ukrainian war refugees have arrived in Estonia. Over 30,000 of them have stayed in Estonia, while the others were on transit.
5 July 2022 – Estonia’s central bank starts selling the coin card dedicated to Ukraine
Eesti Pank, the country’s central bank, starts selling the coin card featuring the two-euro coin dedicated to Ukraine. The income from the sales will be given to the Ukrainian central bank. The coin was designed by Daria Titova, a young Ukrainian war refugee who is studying at the Estonian Academy of Arts. The special coin features a girl as a symbol of tenderness, protecting a bird in her hand. The design also features an ear of wheat.
The coin card costs 18 euros. Eesti Pank is initially planning to produce 40,000 coin cards but is prepared to increase the number if demand should prove stronger. The coin card goes on sale on 8 July, while the coins with a special design will enter broader circulation at the end of this year. In total two million two-euro coins will be issued.
4 July 2022 – Settle in Estonia programme prepared to provide adaptation training and language courses to 10,000 Ukrainian war refugees
Starting from 4 July, the state-run Settle in Estonia initiative offers free adaption programme for Estonia-based Ukrainian refugees, covering practical topics related to living in the country, and a language course. The adaption programme includes a one-day thematic module and an A1 level language course that runs for three months.
“We are ready to train nearly 10,000 Ukrainians who have arrived in Estonia on topics related to the practical everyday issues of living here, and to offer language training in order to provide basic skills for communication in Estonian,” a representative of the Estonian culture ministry said in a statement.
Similar trainings for foreigners who arrived in Estonia from abroad and received a residence permit or right of residence have been conducted by the state since 2015 as part of the Settle in Estonia adaptation programme. The courses cover topics about legal issues, public services, employment opportunities, residence options and financial operations, as well as healthcare and social support.
28 June 2022 – Report: Working contributes to faster integration of war refugees
According to the Foresight Centre brief report, “Long-Term Prospects of Integration of War Refugees in Estonia”, the experts of integration think the war refugees who have arrived in Estonia are more likely to integrate with the Estonian community than with another language community. Integration would be supported, above all, by a quick entry into the labour market, but experts are more sceptical about the capacity of the Estonian social and education system to provide sufficient support for integration.
“The development of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the associated migration flows and the length of time the refugees will stay in Estonia are unpredictable at the moment,” an expert of the Foresight Centre, Johanna Vallistu, said. “Therefore, we must work to help the refugees return to their homeland, but at the same time we have to be ready that this will not happen very soon. In order for Estonia to be able to cope as a society in this situation, we must quickly try to integrate the refugees into our daily life.”
22 June 2022 – Finnish shipping company uses Russian fuel that comes from Estonia
According to the Swedish media, the Finnish shipping company, Viking Line, is still, four months after the Russian unprovoked invasion against Ukraine started, still using Russian fuel, getting it from an Estonian company. The Swedish television said the Estonian company was called Marine Energy Solutions; 50% of it is owned by a Elena Bobkova and three men – Anatoly Belov, Alexandr Golubev and Vladimir Koginov have each 16.67% stakes.
One of the managers at Viking Line, Ulf Hagström, told the Swedish television that they weren’t informed that the fuel came from Russia. After the TV interview, the shipping company announced that they had contacted the Estonian company to discuss their contract.
20 June 2022 – Over 43,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Estonia
Estonia has accepted over 43,000 Ukrainian refugees since 22 February. Over 28,000 of them have stayed in Estonia, while the others were on transit.
19 June 2022 – Estonian diplomat: Security is indivisible
The secretary general of the Estonian foreign ministry and a seasoned diplomat, Jonatan Vseviov, delivered the keynote speech at the Western Balkan Digital Security Forum on 15 June where he highlighted that no country in Europe can forget about the war in Ukraine as it is the war for democracy and the rule of law – the basic EU principles. “Security on this continent, and anywhere in the world, is indivisible,” Vseviov emphasised.
The Western Balkan Digital Security Forum was a high-level meeting discussing the EU-supported cybersecurity capacity building efforts implemented by the e-Governance Academy in the Western Balkan. Western Balkan Digital Security Forum discussed cybersecurity in the region and to explore the best practices of the European Union and Estonia.
19 June 2022 – Registration for the Settle in Estonia programme for the Ukrainian war refugees begins
Starting 17 June, registration for a temporary adaptation program for Ukrainian war refugees who have received temporary protection is starting; the Police and Border Guard Board will send a referral letter to the first 2,500 adults who have received temporary protection. The aim of the adaptation program is to support Ukrainian refugees who have been granted temporary protection by providing them with knowledge on issues related to the functioning of the Estonian state and society, daily life, work, study and family. With compulsory basic language learning, the adaptation program ensures the smooth integration of Ukrainians who have fled the war into Estonian society in both the short and long term.
The recipient of temporary protection must register for the programme independently on the Settle in Estonia website. The provider of the one-day training programme of the adaptation program is Expat Relocation Estonia who will train up to 10,000 people during the next six months. The company is a long-term provider of an adjustment programme for those arriving with regular migration, and more than 11,000 people have participated in the programme in the last six years.
19 June 2022 – Nordic foreign affair committee chairs call for more support for Ukraine
The chairs of the foreign affairs committees of the parliaments of Estonia, the Baltic states, the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland on 17 June made a joint statement in which they call on speeding up the delivery of military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces, increasing financial support to the Ukrainian government and to neighbouring countries hosting the war refugees, as well as beginning of planning for the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine.
In the statement, the chairs affirm their continuing solidarity with the people of Ukraine and pay tribute to their extraordinary sacrifices in the pursuit of freedom, the territorial integrity of their country and the sovereignty of their democracy. “It is incumbent on us to respond collectively and decisively to a war that seeks to change the status quo through force, and which is already redefining the future of Europe,” they say.
They call on continuing and intensifying the international community’s support to Ukraine – speeding up the delivery of heavy weapons and other military assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces, in addition to increasing financial support to the Ukrainian government for its day-to-day spending and to neighbouring countries hosting nearly five million Ukrainian refugees. “We further call on governments to begin planning, in close cooperation with the government of Ukraine, for the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine,” the statement emphasises.
The statement was signed by the chairs of the foreign affairs committees of the parliaments of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Estonian parliament, Marko Mihkelson, signed the statement on behalf of Estonia.
15 June 2022 – Half of Estonian companies see turnover decline due to the war in Ukraine
The confidence of Estonia’s small and medium-sized enterprises has deteriorated sharply because of the war, according to a survey carried out by SEB Bank, an Estonian subsidiary of a Swedish bank operating in Estonia.
15 June 2022 – Over 42,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Estonia
Estonia has accepted over 42,000 Ukrainian refugees since 22 February. Over 27,000 of them have stayed in Estonia, while the others were on transit.
10 June 2022 – Ten foreign affairs committee chairs call on granting Ukraine the EU candidate status
The chairs of the foreign affairs committees of the parliaments of ten countries and the European Parliament made a joint statement in which they call on granting Ukraine the status of a candidate country for the European Union membership in the forthcoming European Council. The chairs welcome the European Council conclusions on Ukraine adopted on 30 May 2022 and note that the sixth package of sanctions against Russia that cover crude oil and petroleum products delivered from Russia into the member states is a strong signal of European commitment to ending Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and limiting Europe’s susceptibility to energy weaponisation attempts against the bloc.
“Today is a turning point for European history, providing momentum for the EU to exercise a proactive role at regional and global levels and build the Union’s geopolitical power whilst reducing Russia’s influence in EU neighbourhood countries,” they say. The chairs also highlight that the majority of Europeans support Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and an absolute majority of Ukrainians desire Ukraine to join the European Union. “Ukraine is an integral part of Europe, and we must be strong and convincing in our response to Ukraine’s desire to join the Union. We also acknowledge that there are other potential candidates who aspire to join the European Union,” they point out.
The joint statement was signed by the chairs of the foreign affairs committees of the parliaments of Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the European Parliament. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian parliament, Marko Mihkelson, signed the statement on behalf of Estonia.
10 June 2022 – Tallinn to have Ukraine Square
The Tallinn’s city government has assigned the name of Ukraine Square to the so far unnamed square in Lembitu Park in the Estonian capital’s city centre. “We will transform the square into an urban symbol of Ukraine’s current tenacious resistance and defence of its independence,” Madle Lippus, a deputy mayor of Tallinn, said in a statement. Lembitu Park is named after an ancient elder and military commander who defended the independence of Estonians against invading crusaders in the 13th century.
10 June 2022 – Tallinn starts accepting applications for rent subsidies from the Ukrainian war refugees
The Ukrainian refugees who have been granted temporary protection will be able to apply for rent subsidies in Tallinn, the Estonian capital. The refugees can apply for rent subsidy online (the page currently in Estonian only) and also at the Tallinn Refugee Centre at 2 Niine Street. The application must be accompanied by a copy of the rental contract, a copy of the decision on temporary protection and proof of payment. During working days, there’s also a telephone line at +372 600 0677 where the refugees can receive advice on rent subsidies; the line is open from Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM.
7 June 2022 – Over 41,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Estonia
Estonia has accepted over 41,000 Ukrainian refugees since 22 February. Approximately 27,000 of them have stayed in Estonia, while the others were on transit.
20 May 2022 – A small Estonian town builds a sand sculpture honouring Zelensky
A small Estonian resort town, Tõrva, located in Valga County in southern Estonia, has built a sand sculpture, honouring the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The sculpture depicts Zelensky as part of the Statue of Liberty. The sculpture was built by the Ukrainian war refugees who live in the town and it was sponsored by the local entrepreneurs. It took 72 metric tons of sand to erect the sculpture. The town is planning to surround the statue with other sculptures and call the area Freedom Park; the park will stay there until the fall.
17 May 2022 – Estonia’s defence chief: Russia doesn’t have the strength to occupy Estonia
The chairman of the Estonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Martin Herem said that Russia’s goal was to destroy the economic and political culture of the Western world, but it didn’t have the strength to occupy Eastern Europe or the Baltic states. He said to the Lithuanian Public Broadcasting that Russia is waging a hybrid war against the West through a conventional war in Ukraine.
“Our economy is under stress, the prices rising, the people’s psyche has been attacked and people are somewhat scared about the refugees,” he told the Lithuanian network. However, he added that Russia can’t occupy the Baltic states or Eastern Europe: “They don’t have the strength for that and I think they don’t want to do it.” Herem also said that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would send a signal to the Russians that they’re not doing it against Russia, but because of Russia.
15 May 2022 – No Ukrainian refugee in Estonia has gotten the promised €900 rent benefit
Even though, according to the law, every Ukrainian war refugee who’s received temporary protection from the Republic of Estonia should receive a €900 rent benefit, the state and the local municipalities haven’t in two months managed to agree on how to pay it and, therefore, no Ukrainian war refugee has received it, Eesti Päevaleht reports. This has created a big problem, according to the newspaper – the refugees can’t move to their own abodes from the hotels and the Tallink cruise ship that accommodates refugees at the Port of Tallinn, as the first month’s rent and the deposit is the hardest to come up with.
13 May 2022 – 1,700 people sign a petition that calls the Russian embassy building in Tallinn’s Old Town to be given the address “Free Ukraine 1”
“It needs to be done because it helps constantly remind the embassy staff and the Kremlin that the war in Ukraine is condemned in democratic societies,” Anne-May Nagel, one of the initiators of the petition and representative of the NGO EstYou, said in a statement.
“The petition does not ask for any of the Old Town streets to be renamed. It is a question of giving a new address to a specific section in front of the embassy building – so that, for example, on the invitation for people coming to the Russian embassy on 9 May (the date Russia celebrates the victory over Nazi Germany) next year, there will be the address ‘Free Ukraine 1’,” Nagel added.
The petition can be viewed and signed by Tallinn residents on the portal rahvaalgatus.ee. An initiative can be submitted to the Tallinn City Government if it has collected at least one per cent of the signatures of the residents of the municipality with the right to vote – about 4,400 signatures. The renaming of a street or a street section of the Russian embassies has already been undertaken in Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw and Prague.
12 May 2022 – Estonia to help rebuild Zhytomyr Oblast in Ukraine
As the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has called on allies to pick the municipalities or regions they could help rebuild, Estonia has accepted Zhytomyr Oblast’s request to concentrate in the post-war rebuilding in that region. The city of Zhytomyr is located 120 kilometres (74 miles) west of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. In 2021, the city’s population was 263,000, the population of the entire oblast – bordering Belarus – is about 1.2 million.
The Estonian foreign ministry has already gotten a list of rebuilding needs from Zhytomyr Oblast and further cooperation will be planned according to it. According to Postimees, a delegation from Zhytomyr will visit Tallinn next week and the officials will go through the plan more precisely.
11 May 2022 – UA War Infographics: Estonia has donated relatively more military aid to Ukraine than any other country
According to UA War Infographics, a Telegram channel that tracks military assistance by various countries, Estonia has donated Ukraine military aid worth one-third of its defence budget.
11 May 2022 – A Tallink ferry accommodates over 1,500 Ukrainian refugees
Estonian World paid a short visit to the ferry, “Isabelle”, moored at the Port of Tallinn and used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Owned by the Estonian shipping company, Tallink, the ferry currently hosts over 1,500 refugees, approximately 40 per cent of them children.
The temporary solution is paid for by the Estonian state and the Estonian Social Board’s staff is helping look after the Ukrainians on board. There are doctors, psychologists and pastors; even a kindergarten was set up on the ship. The refugees are free to visit the city, although the ferry’s ramp is officially closed between midnight and 5 AM (however, no one is left outside if late).
Estonia has accepted over 37,000 Ukrainian refugees since 22 February. Approximately 25,000 of them have stayed in Estonia, while the others were on transit. Over 4,000 refugees, 1,500 of them children, are temporarily accommodated by the state.
11 May 2022 – A Ukrainian cultural day to be held in Tallinn
The Estonia-based Ukrainians will share their culture and traditions with the local and international community at the Ukrainian Cultural Day, due to take place by the Tallinn TV Tower on 28 May.
11 May 2022 – The Associated Press to move part of its workforce from Russia to Tallinn
The Associated Press, a global news agency, will in the coming weeks move part of its workforce from Russia to Tallinn, the Estonian capital. “Part of our employees will move to Tallinn in the next few week, to cover the Baltics and the wider region,” a spokesman of the agency Lauren Easton, told Delfi. The AP won’t close its Russia office entirely, though. Thousands of foreign and Russian journalists have left Russia after 24 February when Russia started its unprovoked war in Ukraine.
9 May 2022 – Estonia to sing for Ukraine on 22 May
A joint choir, “Estonia Sings for Ukraine”, is to gather at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds on 22 May to sing in support of Ukraine. The organisers welcome all singers to join the choir, provided they pre-register.
The joint choir is led by Hirvo Surva and the aim of the call is to get ten thousand singers together. The iconic Ukrainian tune “Oi u luzi chervona kalyna” (“The Red Viburnum in the Meadow”) will be performed, which composer Jonas Tarm has made a four-voice choral arrangement. The video recording will take place on Sunday, 22 May at 5 PM.
9 May 2022 – Svetlana Stsur: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has devaluated the victory over Nazism
Svetlana Stsur, an Estonian Russian, writes in an opinion piece that she understands the sentiment around 9 May and its meaning for the identity of many Russian-speaking people around the world – but, quoting a short story from her young Ukrainian friend, Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine has devaluated the meaning of the date.
9 May 2022 – Many Estonian Russians commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany
On 9 May, Russia commemorates the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. In Estonia, thousands of Estonian Russians usually bring flowers to the old Soviet-erected war monuments, such as the Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn. Because of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the date was this year under closer than usual scrutiny, and the monuments were under increased police surveillance.
Estonian World’s photographer Andrea Forlani paid a visit by the Bronze Soldier monument to see what was happening. At the time of his visit, all was calm – and at some point, there seemed to be more police than people.
8 May 2022 – An Estonian NGO sends two truckloads of 4x4s to Ukraine
An Estonian NGO, United Delivery Mission, has sent two truckloads of cars to Ukraine’s armed forces. The NGO was created for the purpose of helping Ukraine’s military with SUVs and other equipment. The NGO said it was “already working on putting together the next trailer” and people “can support its efforts by donating or by offering reasonably priced SUVs”.
8 May 2022 – Estonia’s central bank issues a two-euro coin designed by a Ukrainian refugee
The Bank of Estonia, the central bank of Estonia and a member of the euro area central bank system, is planning to issue into circulation a two-euro coin dedicated to Ukraine. The coin was designed by Daria Titova – a young Ukrainian war refugee who is studying at the Estonian Academy of Arts.
Titova, originally from Kharkiv, explained the coin featured a girl as a symbol of tenderness, protecting a bird in her hand. The design also features an ear of wheat. The coin with the special design should enter circulation towards the end of 2022.
6 May 2022 – Baltic foreign ministers visit Ukraine
Eva-Maria Liimets, Edgars Rinkēvičs and Gabrielius Landsbergis – the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian foreign ministers, respectively – are on a visit to Ukraine today. The ministers, who had meetings with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, expressed the “unwavering support of the Baltic states to Ukraine”, the Estonian foreign ministry said.
4 May 2022 – Hundreds of Ukrainian kids need to go to court in Estonia
Hundreds of Ukrainian kids who have escaped the Russian unprovoked war in their homeland need to go to court in Estonia because their parents are not with them, but they need legal custodians to apply for benefits, Estonian weekly Maaleht writes. As of last week, some 11,000 Ukrainian kids had arrived in Estonia as war refugees; 78% of them are younger than 13. About 1,600 kids don’t have a legal custodian – their parents didn’t have the chance to leave Ukraine, but they sent their kids with their relatives, neighbours or acquaintances.
Helen Jõks, an official at the Estonian social ministry, told Maaleht that every child needs a legal custodian who can make decisions for the kid – like apply for benefits, make medical decisions or get the child other help. So the Estonian courts will have to appoint a temporary custodian to a child who doesn’t have their parents with them. Most of the time, the custodian will be the person with whom the kid arrived in Estonia.
3 May 2022 – Expert: Russia may need half a million service members to win in Ukraine
According to Leo Kunnas, an Estonian MP (EKRE) and a reserve lieutenant colonel, Russia may declare a general mobilisation in order to win in Ukraine. He told Delfi that if Russia indeed wants to win in Ukraine militarily, then it needs at least a three-fold superiority against Ukraine – which means half a million service members. However, if the general mobilisation is declared, it will take a few months to get them together and to arm and equip them, Kunnas added.
According to Western intelligence information, Russia may declare war against Ukraine on 9 May – the day Russia celebrates the victory in the Second World War. Kunnas said to Delfi that people should take this intel seriously as, up to now, the Western intelligence has been quite precise about Russia’s actions in Ukraine. So far, Russia has called its unprovoked aggression against Ukraine a “military operation” and “denazification”.
However, Kunnas also said that it would be impossible for Russia to take Ukraine in its entirety. “I’ll tell you right away, this is an impossibility. It’s not possible to take entire Ukraine. Even if Russia could take every Ukrainian city and demolish every battalion, even then they wouldn’t conquer Ukraine. It’s always easier to defend one’s own country. People want to do it. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men and women are very motivated to do that.”
3 May 2022 – Estonia’s FM: No ban on giving Israeli weapons to Ukraine
According to the Estonian foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, Jerusalem hasn’t blocked Tallinn from giving Israel weapons to Ukraine, contrary to some reports published earlier this year. “I am not aware of any obstacles at the moment,” Liimets said, according to Jerusalem Post, adding that if there was such a ban, she would have raised it in her meetings with Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid and defense minister Benny Gantz. “So far, we have gotten permission from all countries of origin for what we wanted to donate.”
Estonia has bought a lot of weapons from Israel in the past year, including more than 500 Spike anti-tank missiles and the Blue Spear missile system for coastal defense, the Post reported.